Here's one of those oddities -- in more ways than one -- from Stone, and I can't say I'm in love with it. The oak-smoked Old Guardian is a beer I can respect, mind you, but I don't see myself drinking it again.
Maybe it's just one of those religious things. I am all about great barley wines, and I'm not sure messing with the formula is a good thing. This might be, and probably is, a highly subjective opinion. The rest of the world seems to disagree with me, but I stand by my opinion.
So, let's have a look.
It definitely pours beautifully, all draped in deep ruby colors with a finger of head. The nose is very barley wine-esque, laden with caramel and citrus and gentle hints of the 11.4% alcohol. The smoke is there, too, and it's not entirely unpleasant. At this point I had expected everything to turn out OK.
And in a sense everything is OK, but not much more than that. The flavor is, in my opinion, pretty funky, and I have torn feelings about the harmony between the smokiness and the barley wine. Technically it works; this is not a case of a superfluous flavor being thrown in just for the hell of it. It's well thought out, and well brewed.
To me, in all subjectiveness, the combination just doesn't work. It just serves as a reminder of how good the original Old Guardian is and how ultimately pointless this beer is. It is, in a sense, like listening to a well made remix of a great song. You can admire the craftsmanship, but you really just want to go back and listen to the original track.
When all is said and done, this might be right up your alley. You might even love the oak and smoke; a lot of people do. The addition just doesn't do it for me, and I'd rather go back to the classic Old Guardian. That is my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.